Historic Otago homestead burns down amidst fire ban

An historic Central Otago homestead has been totally destroyed overnight, after a fire razed two historic wooden buildings to the ground.

The Mount Aurum homestead was at the end of one of the world's most dangerous roads, in Skippers Canyon, about 20 kilometres north of Queenstown.

Police say they want to speak with a couple who were camping there at the time.Campers raised the alarm just after 2am on Monday.

But armed with just a few buckets and water from nearby toilets, the best they could do was contain it.

It took 50 minutes for emergency crews to arrive because the narrow gravel Skippers Canyon Road is a difficult and dangerous drive.

Luckily, strong winds dropped away, preventing the fire from spreading to the nearby schoolhouse and dry wilding pine trees.

The original goldminer's hut was expanded into a family homestead, before being taken over and restored by the Department of Conservation.

Wolfy Ickenroth leads twice-daily tours into Skippers Canyon, and says it's a devastating loss of local heritage.

"We have a total fire ban in here. It's very sad," he said.

Detective sergeant Derek Shaw says police have spoken to several groups who were at the small campsite on Sunday night. 

"It's possible that a couple were either camping in the homestead or immediately on the porch, and we would like to speak to them just to clarify that."

The standing ruins may now be the new piece of history.